The Sugar Quill
Author: Chambraigne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: First Meeting  Chapter: II. The Wand Shop
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II. The Wand Shop

Severus was actually excited about getting his own wand even though he thought the artful wrist flicking and chanting that went along with using one rather silly. The simple fact was that most magic required waving a wand around, Potions being the notable exception. There were other arts that one could practice while keeping the wand in a pocket, but he was not interested in those. Herbology was useful, but neither intellectually stimulating nor impressive in its power, while Divination was the province of frauds and the insane (not that these were mutually exclusive, as he knew from certain of his neighbors).

He arrived at the wand shop and entered, a bell on the door announcing him. The place was completely still except for the dust swirling on silent air currents in the sunlight. It had the feel of an attic room that had long been undisturbed. Severus looked about thinking that someone had to be there or the door would have been locked. He was about to call out when a soft voice came from the shadows behind the counter.

“Ah, getting ready to start at Hogwarts, young man?”

Severus started, and then saw the voice’s owner, an old but well-preserved wizard who looked as dusty as the shop. He could have sworn the man had Apparated, he appeared so suddenly and silently.

“Yes, sir,” he said, forcing himself to look steadily back at the man.

“Then it is my job to find you your wand,” the wizard replied, rubbing his hands together and smiling as if this were an unexpected treat. “My name is Ollivander. And what is yours?”

“Severus Snape.”

Mr. Ollivander approached him swiftly, and looked him up and down keenly, but without any trace of pity or disgust unlike the people who gawked at him in the street. Severus felt self-conscious, but his determination not to be intimidated by anyone in Diagon Alley swelled and he continued gazing back.

Mr. Ollivander held up a tape measure. “Hold out your wand arm please,” he requested and Severus did so. Mr. Ollivander was silent for a moment, as the tape began its work, and Severus suddenly realized his eyes were silver.

But his thoughts on this were quickly cut short by Mr. Ollivander’s voice: “I remember when your mother bought her wand from me.”

Severus recalled hearing some of his older colleagues talking about “old Ollivander,” and how the man supposedly remembered everyone who had ever bought a wand from him. He said nothing, and Mr. Ollivander continued. “Ten inches, unicorn hair, red cedar--beautiful smell! I do like to use the more fragrant woods when I can.”

Severus pictured his mother’s wand in his mind; yes, that was it--ten inches, red, and it did have a faint cedar scent still clinging to it. He’d used it himself occasionally, although it worked much better for her.

“She was very pleased with it,” Mr. Ollivander said. “She was quite a charming girl, very quick and curious--asked me all sorts of questions about how I made it. Not very many people appreciate the craftsmanship of a good wand--the balance, the line, the texture of the wood. They’re only concerned with its power.” He sighed and was silent, only looking up again when the tape measure had finished. “Now, let us see what we have for you,” he said with the same air of contained excitement and disappeared into the shelves.

Severus watched Mr. Ollivander pace back and forth among the rows of boxes, one index finger to his lips, while the one on his other hand touched boxes here and there in a seemingly random fashion. Severus wondered idly what sort of organizational system the wizard had, if any. But underneath his vague theories about how to best sort wands, ran a current of thoughts about his mother. He imagined her as a child his age, thinking of the pretty, pampered girl with black curls who grinned mischievously out of the photo album at home, but his mother was no longer a charming, clever little girl. She was no longer the proud, exquisitely beautiful young woman—already a Dark witch--he saw in the later pictures either, the impish grin replaced by a mysterious and dangerous smile. He had not known either of those people. He knew a lonely, tired, bitter woman who had been abandoned by those who were supposed to help her; her power broken, her looks destroyed by hard living and a long illness, forced to live hand-to-mouth, dependent on her son--a child--to provide for them both. Severus shifted uneasily; he was the only person she had left, the only person she loved, the only person it was safe for her to love, and he had let her down so many times…

He was relieved when Mr. Ollivander finally returned with a box, interrupting his thoughts. “Try this, eleven inches, birch, dragon heartstring.”

Severus held the wand up and gave it a firm but gentle swish, careful to point it away from himself and Mr. Ollivander, who smiled and said, “I see you have had some practice, Mr. Snape. But this will not do, not at all.” He took the wand away, and returned to the shelves, emerging again after a few more moments of pacing. “Perhaps this--unicorn hair and oak, twelve inches--one of my better efforts, if I do say so myself.” But before Severus had even touched the wand, Mr. Ollivander pulled the box back and snapped the lid shut. “Not for you, however.” Once more, he returned to his maze of wands.

He was gone for a very long time, and Severus was beginning to wonder if he would have time to finish the rest of his shopping that day, when Mr. Ollivander finally reappeared with a third box. He held out a wand that was red, like his mother’s, but darker. “Cherry and phoenix feather,” he said, looking at Severus keenly again, his expression unreadable.

Severus took the wand, and did not need Mr. Ollivander to tell him it was the right one. He knew, instantly: gentle warmth filled his hand and red and gold sparks flowed abundantly from the tip with no effort on his part whatsoever. It felt natural, good, like--he immediately dismissed the thought as foolish once he had it, but the feeling remained--like he had been accepted by some beautiful and powerful being.

Mr. Ollivander smiled, and for the first time Severus smiled back at him. “I believe that will do nicely. But I must say, it is rather a surprising match.”

“How so?” Severus asked. He was afraid for a moment that Mr. Ollivander would decide that there had been some mistake, that he did not deserve this beautiful thing and take it away.

Mr. Ollivander considered his words. “The wand chooses the wizard, you know. That is something else about them that people do not properly appreciate. Wands have their own characters, and when we use them, they respond to everything about us, not just our raw magical ability. Our thoughts, our feelings, our experiences”--he emphasized the last word, and paused briefly, gazing so intently at Severus that he looked away. “Even our family history, to some extent. The wand sees things inside of us that we do not even know are there. For as long as I have been making them and guiding them to their proper owners--and that is a very long time, understand--even I am still surprised by their choices. You have a very fine wand, Mr. Snape, in many ways. I hope you come to appreciate it fully someday.”

Severus was utterly mystified. He had no idea what to say to this, and did not think that asking more questions would get a coherent answer out of the old wizard. He paid for his wand, thanked Mr. Ollivander, and left the shop. The man was undoubtedly mad, but he made excellent wands.

//
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